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ACLU files lawsuit to challenge new Kentucky law banning dilation and evacuation abortion method

The American Civil Liberties Union Wednesday filed suit on behalf of Kentucky abortion providers to challenge a state law banning physicians from providing a safe and medically proven abortion method called dilation and evacuation, or “D&E.”

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed the bill into law on April 10, and it took immediate effect.

The federal lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, seeks to stop enforcement of this law while the case proceeds. The law is forcing patients to travel hundreds of miles out of state if they need this abortion procedure, and for some women that is an insurmountable obstacle. The lawsuit argues that the law imposes serious harm on women’s health and dignity and will continue to do so every day it remains in effect.

The ACLU contends that for many patients, the procedure being banned is the safest and most appropriate. The law is forcing doctors to stop providing it and forcing patients either to leave the state to obtain it or to forego the care altogether. A new study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that restrictions on abortion like the Kentucky law create barriers to safe care.

“We’re suing Kentucky yet again — this time to stop state politicians from banning a safe abortion method,” said Talcott Camp, deputy director with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “This law disregards a woman’s health and decisions in favor of a narrow ideological agenda.”


The ACLU calls the restriction part of a national strategy to push abortion out of reach. Since January 2011, state politicians have enacted more than 401 new restrictions on abortion that force patients to delay care, shut down clinics, and make abortion care unaffordable.

“At every point in pregnancy, a woman’s health, not politics, should determine the care she receives,” said Kentucky physician Dr. Kenneth Zegart. “It’s each physician’s professional and ethical responsibility to provide their patients with the care and information that is best for her individual circumstances, but Kentucky lawmakers are now interfering.”

Due in part to these restrictions, Kentucky is one of a handful of states that have only one abortion provider left.

“Kentucky politicians have already shut down all but one abortion clinic in our state,” said Michael Aldridge, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky. “Now they want to invade the exam room and stop doctors from providing safe, quality care. It’s shameless, insulting, and dangerous.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C., on behalf of itself, its staff, and its patients, as well as two physicians who provide care at EMW, on behalf of themselves and their patients. They are represented by attorneys with the ACLU and the ACLU of Kentucky.

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